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100 per cent French: Legault wants all economic immigrants to speak French

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Concerned about the decline of French in Quebec, particularly in Montreal, Premier François Legault says he will release more details of a plan that would require 100 per cent of economic immigrants to be French-speaking.

The decline, he told reporters during a press scrum in Quebec City Tuesday, is the second biggest challenge his government and opposition parties are facing and is one that can be solved through immigration. The other pressing challenge, he said, is the transformation to a green economy.

"We are now at less than 50 per cent of francophones on the Island of Montreal, at 48 per cent. We have already taken action with Bill 96. We have already started to take action concerning the selection of immigrants. We will continue to take action to absolutely stop the decline of French. I'm open to all suggestions on the topic," said Legault Tuesday, one day before he is set to deliver his opening speech for the 43rd session of the Quebec legislature.

When asked by a reporter if he envisions making French a requirement for all new immigrants by 2026, Legault said that's the plan.

"I think so. That's what we're aiming for," he said, adding that a "backlog" of thousands of immigrants selected by the previous government through the skilled worker program is causing the province to lag behind.

The work to slow the decline doesn't stop in Montreal, according to the premier, who said efforts must be made to boost the presence of French in places close to Ontario and areas bordering the United States.

Previous governments under the Liberals and the Parti Québécois relied on a 50,000 threshold for French-speaking economic immigrants

He said the Coalition Avenir Québec has been able to bring the level of economic immigrants who speak French to 80 per cent, but Legault said he'll be able to bring it to 100 per cent.

"It's important that we bring back as many powers as we can regarding our identity because Quebec is the only government representing a majority of francophones, so it's important that we get as many powers as we can," the premier said.

Legault is expected to shed more light on his vision Wednesday at the national assembly.

This is a developing story that will be updated. 

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